13 Hazaras shot dead in Afghanistan

  • 06/09/2015

Gunmen have shot dead 13 minority Hazaras after dragging them out of their vehicles in northern Afghanistan.

The victims, all male passengers, were taken from two vehicles in the usually tranquil province of Balkh on Saturday in a rare fatal attack targeting ethnic minorities.

The Taliban denied responsibility for the incident, but it comes as the insurgents are ramping up attacks amid a bitter leadership transition.

"The gunmen stopped two vehicles, lined up all the male passengers and shot them dead" from close range, said Jafar Haidari, the governor of Zari district, where the incident occurred.

"They spared the life of one woman who was in one of the vehicles. All the victims were Hazaras."

Abdul Razaq Qaderi, the deputy police chief of Balkh, confirmed the fatalities, adding that officials were investigating who was behind it.

Balkh is a largely peaceful province but Saturday's killings marked the second major fatal incident this year in Zari district.

In June gunmen killed nine Afghan employees of Czech aid organisation People in Need (PIN) in their beds during an overnight raid on their guesthouse in the district.

Attacks targeting minority Shi'ites in Afghanistan are not unheard of, but rare compared to neighbouring Pakistan.

Ethnic Hazaras, Shi'ite descendants of Genghis Khan, suffered extensively under the Sunni Taliban's 1996-2001 regime.